Speed of resolution is critical
For several frantic days, a software failure at a major bank left 6.5 million customers without access to their online accounts. Customers couldn’t access account information at ATMs, get cash at ATMs in foreign countries or make timely mortgage payments.
The move to online, digital banking systems where customers can control their money anywhere, anytime, has created a world of high expectations. When problems arise, there is no time to lose in getting to root cause and resolving issues. Customers do not tolerate threats to their financial security. In the competitive banking industry, IT stability is a critical success factor.
A public relations nightmare
During the bank’s crisis, customers received incorrect bank statements and had erroneous debit and credit interest applied to their accounts. Many organizations had problems completing payroll transactions. The bank eventually had to pay millions in fines for letting their customers down with “unacceptable IT failures.” Then, three years later, the same bank suffered another major IT systems failure, causing 600,000 payments to be delayed. These payments, many to low-income recipients, were delayed by up to four days. The bank suffered severe damage to its reputation and finances from these and other IT system crashes.
When things go wrong in banking everybody knows about it. Headlines like “Internet Banking Down for XYZ Bank Customers” or “Banking Error Delays Payroll for Thousands” are what banks dread seeing. The longer a situation goes on, the greater the damage to the organization’s reputation and finances. Pressure is on to get to the root cause of the problem without any delay.
Structured Root Cause Analysis
When we see the damage caused by an outage at a bank, it is understandable that the financial sector has widely adopted the structured root cause analysis techniques initially developed by Ben Tregoe and Chuck Kepner over 50 years ago. While taking any actions that can ameliorate the ongoing affects caused by a problem to get back online, the key to minimizing damage to the organization is to initiate a structured analysis of the issue as soon as the situation is detected. Guesswork and assumptions may be acceptable in some industries, but banking is not one of them.
The KT techniques come into play as soon as the incident is reported with our method of Situation Appraisal. To gain clarity and apply restorative measures to the highest priority issues first, Situation Appraisal asks the question: What is going on? And then prioritizes issues to provide a way forward.
Problem Analysis, the structured KT approach to root cause analysis is used to ascertain the true cause of the problem and design a permanent fix. Before finalizing the “fix”, the KT method for risk analysis, known as Potential Problem Analysis, is applied to create What If scenarios when fixes are applied so that preventive and contingent actions can be planned to minimize the impact of changes and potential future problems.
Fast action improves customer satisfaction
Organizations who have introduced these techniques dramatically reduce their rates for mean-time-to-resolution (MTTR), resulting in improvements in customer satisfaction. In addition, by getting to root cause, they can avoid the same problem cropping up again in the future, thereby improving long-term IT stability.
When a major incident threatens IT stability, the reputation of the organization is at stake. Having a structured plan in place, including a well-managed communication strategy to keep customers, and possibly the media, informed, supports IT stability and ultimately the organization’s reputation.